Friday, October 9, 2009

Book Review: How To Stay Christian In High School by Steve Gerali

General comments:

"How To Stay Christian In High School" by Steve Gerali is a simple to read, straight forward, with many nuggets of biblical wisdom. It is written with great clarity, and with a modern twist to familiar biblical stories that opens up fresh, new understanding that can certainly connect with young people in our generation. With a mere 127 pages and a total of six chapters, it can be read even in one or two sittings.

Very readable. Challenging. And although this book is meant for high school Christians, I find that this book is equally challenging to Christians from all walks of life.

Lessons I learned from this book:

Chapter 1 starts off with knowing our identity in Christ. Before we can fully understand who we are, we need to know whose we are - to whom we belong to. The author then goes on to outline three significant implications of knowing whose we are:
- Knowing whose we are implies ownership (Romans 5:12-19)
- Knowing whose we are implies sonship (Galatians 4:3-7)
- Knowing whose we are implies partnership (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

I like this part when, after stating Romans 8:35-39, the author poses out six "what if" doubts that we often allow to come in between us and God's love:

But what if I did .............................................?
But what if I said ............................................?
But what if I thought ......................................?
But what if I went ...........................................?
But what if I tried ...........................................?
But what if I ....................................................?

The author says: "No matter what you put in those blanks ... God would still love you."

Chapter 2 focuses on Mary - the importance of building a firm foundation in Jesus Christ. It starts off with an illustration of two men building their houses, both of the same material but at different locations - one on top of the cliff, and the other right in front of the beach just because he loved surfing so much. Although the man who built his house near the beachfront might boast and pitied his friend for having to climb up and down, and although the man who built the house up on the cliff may sometimes doubt whether he had made the wrong choice or should he had taken a short cut like his friend below, there will come a time when the hurricance will come and blow off the house of the man below. (1 Cor 3:11-15 NIV)

To stay Christian in college days, we need to have a strong foundation. The storms hit both houses with the same intensity both houses build on two different foundations. The outcome depends on our foundations.

To quote the author:
"If you have Christ, you have everything. If you don't have Christ, everything that you have is nothing. You identity must be built upon the solid rock of Jesus......Your identity is the core of your character. It is who you are, the person who's still there when everything else is taken away and when nobody sees you. It is shaped by the things you allow yourself to be influenced by, day by day. It is developed by the values you believe in and hold dear." - Steve Gerali

Certainly I agree when the author says that anyone can say that "I will die for Jesus!", but if you are really willing to die for Jesus, then certainly you are willing to LIVE for Him. You will deny some things for Him. You will be willing to be embarassed for Him.

The author then proceeds to elaborate on the story of Mary, an average teenaged Jewish girl, whom, customary of her age at that time, was arranged to be married to be Joseph.
Being an average teenage girl, her life would probably be pretty much routine like any other girls of her age during her time.

So, we can imagine her reaction when the angel Gabriel came witht the salutation in Luke 1:26-38. How do you think Mary would have felt? Freaked out? Scared? Although we do not know whether Mary had, prior to that encounter, made a commitment to dedicate her life to God. But let's say, even if she did commit her life to God earlier on, this encounter with the angel Gabriel and the task of being pregnant is never part of what she sign up for. It certainly was not part of what she expected...this is totally unexpected.

Even after Mary had finally come to grip with the fact that this pregnancy was indeed true, next challenge that she had to face: how is she going to tell her parents about this pregnancy?
As the author had said, there has not been any case God himself impregnates anyone. What if daddy didn't believe such superfluous claim? What if her family suspected she was flirting around outside? What if the neighbours gossip about her "shame" in a Jewish upbringing?

Mary was risking huge rejection from her family. Mary risked misunderstanding.

The third challenge Mary faced: What about her growing uterus? This would mean that she would never get to wear her cute dresses anymore, but rather she would need to wear her maternity dress. What about the morning sicknesses she might be experiencing? What about the pimples? What about the leg swelling? The extra weight gain?

Next, would be the rejection she would possibly have to face from Joseph. Although this was an arranged marriage, Mary probably had grown to love Joseph and vice-versa. But Mary knew that she must consider losing Joseph and the marriage called off.

From I have learned in Chapter 2, to be a Christian, means
1/ to expect the unexpected
2/ to be willing to be inconvenienced
3/ to risk facing rejections from family and friends aroumd
4/ to be willing to die to self, self-interest, plans, etc.

At the back of Chapter 2, the author asked some thought-provoking questions:
When have you been the most misunderstood? How did you cope with the feelings?
How has God re-arrranged your plans for life? For college? Are there things in your life that you had to give up in order to maintain your identity as a believer? If so what are they?

Chapter 3 is about Daniel
Daniel 1 describes how Nebuchadnezzar, after becoming king of Babylon, swept into Palestine and surrounded Jerusalem and took many of Jerusalem's wisest men and most beautiful women to Babylon as captives. Daniel was among this group.

In Babylon, Daniel stayed far from his parents, in the sophisticaded Babylon of that time.
No parents to control.
Yet Daniel did not compromise.
New found freedom.
Yet Daniel did not abuse the freedom.

How about us?
Would you still obey the curfew even when your parents are not around?
Or would you compromise a bit, drop your guard a little? (Romans 12:1-2)

Bad influence usually creep in subtly.
"Even the smallest compromises are dangerous.
They lead to more and more compromise - and we may end up with a big problem."

As the author has pointed out, no one in his right mind would one day, when he wakes up, says to himself that he is going to destroy his life, or determined to get addicted to alcohol, etc.
God gave wisdom to Daniel what to say to the guards (verses 11-15).
The author suggests that we should take a look (or make a list) of some of the little things in our own life these days?

Question: Are you the influencer or the influenced?
The key lies in verse 8 (Dan 1:8): Daniel had MADE UP HIS MIND
We need to make up our mind ..way up front.
Daniel resolved not to.....

When are you most tempted to compromise?
What makes it harder to resist?
What makes it easier to resist?

What are some of the areas in which popularity and doing the right things have come into conflict in your life?

Chapter 4 is about Joseph when he was facing temptations as described in Genesis 39:6-10

Joseph had a right perspective about things (verse 9). Joseph said Potiphar has given all these things...but the sin would be against God. Joseph had a God-honoring perspective.

The key to overcoming temptation is in verse 12 (Gen 39:12): FLEE!!
Without explanation, Joseph bolted out of there.
He did not worry about whether he hurt her feelings.
He did not stay to enjoy some of it, and then draw the line when it starts to go too far.
He does not rationalize things.

Chapter 5 is about James and John, where as Chapter 6 is about Timothy.

The Replacement Principle:
I also like the Replacement Principle that the author describes. It works like this: If you want something out of your life, don't work hard to remove it. Instead, pour in something else that pushes it out. Replace something bad with something godly. To stay Christian in high school, replace rotten stuff in your life with good stuff.

In short, the author highligted a key lesson for each of the chapters:
Chapter 1: If you want to stay as a Christian in high school, be absolutely certain WHOSE you are.

Chapter 2: If you want to stay as a Christian in high school, you can't turn an identity on or off; make Jesus the foundation of who you are.

Chapter 3: If you want to stay as a Christian in high school, step AROUND the moral land mines to avoid compromise at all cost

Chapter 4: If you want to stay as a Christian in high school, constantly monitor your MIND-MENU - and leave temporary pleasures behind

Chapter 5: If you want to stay as a Christian in high school, you have to be willing to allow Jesus to gradually replace the rotten stuff with the good stuff

Chapter 6: If you want to stay as a Christian in high school, don't be perfect, just be dependent on Jesus.

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